September 8, 2005
On Monday, the charity Save the Children (STC) said its survey of Liberian school-aged girls in Monrovia found that between 60 percent and 80 percent are selling sex in order to pay school fees and escape their poverty. "We surveyed more than 300 girls over a five-month period, and initially we were not aware of this issue," said Pippa Ranger, a STC spokesperson. "Gradually the opinions we collected pointed to a figure of between 60 and 80 percent [of schoolgirls selling sex], showing that this is a widespread problem with implications far beyond education."
While sex for school fees is an issue in other African countries, the proportion of girls doing so in Liberia is high.
"Sometimes I go with boys who will give me money, sometimes I beg in the street," said 18-year-old Anita, who declined to give her name. She earns 100 to 200 Liberian dollars ($2-$4 US) for school from sleeping with some four to five men a day, with barely enough left over for a bowl of rice.
STC said that men often preferred younger girls, who are perceived as cheaper, more obedient, and less of an AIDS risk than their older sisters.
Mary, 18, also sells sex to pay for school after her older brother was killed and her father went missing during Liberia's 14-year civil war. Although customers are willing to pay twice as much to have sex without a condom, Mary refuses. "They ask, but I say no. If I get pregnant, how will I go back to school?"